Classic of Russian Cinematography: Battleship Potemkin
Battleship Potemkin /Броненосец Потёмкин/ Sergiej Eisenstein, 1925, 120 min, drama, VO, sub EN
A revolutionary film in form, in political purpose and in subject matter, Eisenstein's 1925 Soviet classic focuses on a naval mutiny in the Black Sea during the abortive 1905 revolution.
After the success of Strike (1924), Sergei Eisenstein was commissioned by the Soviet government to make a film commemorating the uprising of 1905. Eisenstein's scenario, boiled down from what was to have been a multipart epic of the occasion, focussed on the crew of the battleship Potemkin. Fed up with the extreme cruelties of their officers and their maggot-ridden meat rations, the sailors stage a violent mutiny. This, in turn, sparks an abortive citizens' revolt against the Czarist regime. The film's centrepiece is staged on the Odessa Steps, where in 1905 the Czar's Cossacks methodically shot down rioters and innocent bystanders alike. To Eisenstein, this single bloody incident was the crucible of the successful 1917 Bolshevik revolution, and the result was the "Odessa Steps sequence," which is often considered the most famous sequence ever filmed; it is certainly one of the most imitated, perhaps most overtly by Brian De Palma in The Untouchables (1987). This triumph of Eisenstein's "rhythmic editing" technique occurs in the middle of film, not as the climax, as more current film structure might do it. All the actors in the film were amateurs, selected by Eisenstein because of their "rightness" as types for their roles. Pictorial quality varies from print to print, but even in a duped-down version, Battleship Potemkin is must-see cinema. (H. Erickson)